The unfair trading practices (UTP) enforcement authority has acknowledged that a perceived “fear factor” is acting to dissuade farmers and food producers from coming forward with complaints against other actors suspected to have breached UTP rules in the agri-food supply chain.
The interim enforcement authority, speaking through the Department of Agriculture, told the Irish Farmers Journal last week that it had received only six complaints to date, four of which fell “outside the scope” of the UTP regulations.
The remaining two complaints are being screened to determine whether the alleged practices which have been put forward fall within the remit of the authority.
The authority was set up to ensure compliance with UTP legislation before the establishment of the Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain.
The enforcement body told the Irish Farmers Journal that a “high-profile communications campaign” was set to commence over the coming weeks that will aim to increase buyer and seller awareness of the UTP rules.
It encouraged producers to come forward to the authority if they thought that a buyer had breached UTP rules.
Any "threat or act of retaliation" by buyers in response to farmers exercising their right to complaint would see the authority pursuing the "strongest possible" sanctions.
Farmers being ‘walked on’
Independent TD Carol Nolan had queried the lack of farmer engagement with the UTP rules and has pointed to the ‘fear factor’ of producers as an element of enforcement that needs improvement.
“It was also made clear to me that there is still a significant level of concern and even ‘fear’ among farmers and producers when it comes to having their rights vindicated or protected,” the Laois-Offaly TD stated.
“I accept that the UTP [enforcement] authority is actively and constructively engaging with farmers to try and address these concerns and that is something I want to warmly welcome.
“Farmers and producers will no longer tolerate being walked on when it comes to unfair pricing,” Deputy Nolan said.